of learning

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About a million years ago, before I ever knew advertising exists, I stumbled upon an article that analysed Coke and Pepsi as brands and their brand positions and how Pepsi strategically went up against Coke and (kind of) succeeded.

I couldn’t remember the details of the analysis but I’ve got the big picture. And I thought: shit this is sooo smart that it’s actually mind-blowing.

Fast forward to a million years later, I have been working in advertising for 7 years. In my master advertising class earlier this week, the lecturer had a question about Coke and Pepsi. I answered it based on what I read ages ago. And it was the right answer.

Mike asked: so will you be able to answer that question based on the things you’ve learned and known by now? Chance is yes I probably can, but I will need 5 minutes to figure that out or perhaps never if I’m not smart enough.

When I first wrote my literature review last year, I was overwhelmed with the amount of data, research and reports returned by Google and the library portal based on some simple keywords. I thought: this is easier than I thought, I can always find an answer by searching for it.

Thing is, how do we know what we need to know or learn until the moment we actually need that knowledge for a purpose? For example, I would never have known that I would someday use the understanding about Coke and Pepsi from the analysis I read years ago until for some reasons it happened to me this week and I need that piece of knowledge at that very moment.

Secondly, how did all the great grand philosophers and scientists learn without the luxury of available materials and studies from the Internet like what we’ve got today?

This has brought me to realise that we can’t actually depend on the fact that we can always search for something. That is the sort of lazy thinking that Google and many technologies being the convenient tools that help us access information and knowledge quickly, easily, widely and cost-effectively spoil us. They don’t motivate us to pro-actively learn. We think there are always answers to everything somewhere on the Internet and we assume we will get an answer when we need to. So then we only ask questions when we need to. And we don’t ask questions out of curiosity anymore.

Having said that, I think it’s absolutely critical to be learning independently, proactively and consistently. To me, all knowledge is knowledge, doesn’t matter whether it’s general knowledge or specialised knowledge. It will either be utilised some day, or it will make people better knowledgeable ones. So if there are opportunities to learn about anything, just absolutely anything, I will make an effort to go and learn it (when I can).

 

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